Frequently asked questions

« All knowledge must be an answer to a question. » [ Gaston Bachelard ]

1. Definitions and principles (5)

What is WebKiosk?

Webkiosk is an IT solution composed of “open source” bricks that manage and secure the computers in your public environment.

Users have access to a highly-secured internet connection (in accordance with the applicable country regulation) while enjoying software suites in order to optimize the way they use public computers in libraries.

Staff are presented with simple and intuitive administration tools that allow them to manage both computer stations and users (allocating session time limits, managing computer reservations, configuring an amount of printing per day, etc.)

What are the Open Source Bricks used in Webkiosk?

Webkiosk is based on Open Source software solutions (operating system and applications), which means that the original code of these tools is freely accessible and modifiable as we wish. Specifically, this means all software products that are installed on public computers comply with license terms that offer the users the 4 following rights:

  • The right to run the program, for all uses,
  • The right to study the program’s function and to adapt it to the user’s needs,
  • The right to distribute copies of the program,
  • The right to improve and share the code with the public, for the benefit of the community.

I am not a computer specialist, I am a librarian. What is the value of using open-source software?

An open-source software is more “flexible” than a proprietary software, for the simple reason that it can be adapted to your specific needs.
Even though you may never modify the source code by yourself, be assured that any computer scientist who is familiar with the operation of the software will be able to do it.
This is why choosing open-source solutions is perfectly adapted to the library world.

I’ve heard that open-source software is not as efficient as proprietary software?

This is absolutely wrong since the quality of a software is not related to its distribution mode. Think about it: would it be as simple as making the open-source software proprietary in order to suddenly become more efficient?

Moreover, we may mention a few examples of efficient open-source software suites that have proven their value in everyday use: Firefox web browser, Open Office suite, VLC media player, Thunderbird email application, etc.

Need another example? The deputies of the French National Assembly have adopted the operating system Ubunty since 2007, and the state police since 2008.

I have heard that open-source software products are usually free, why should I pay for your software?

Please note that “open source” does not necessarily mean “free” (the opposite is also true). Also, the part related to the administration of Webkiosk is not under under Open-Source license. However, we chose to not charge a license fee to use of our webkiosk solution.

As service providers, Aesis Conseil ensures the maintenance of this solution. We strongly recommend to use our service since we are the main technical of the Webkiosk project ; we know our solution better than anyone else (installation, configuration, security…).

2. Webkiosk features (17)

I am an IT manager. How does your solution allow me to manage my public computers more easily?

We are able to adapt WebKiosk to thin clients. This way, the applications are run directly from the server, by a workstation.
Thin client architecture gives you the advantage to avoid any “cluttering” with thick clients, with all the administrative restrictions that this implies.
Each workstation directly starts from the server via a compatible PXE network adapter.
Therefore, nothing is installed on the computer, which is not equipped with a hard drive anyway.

How does Webkiok work in practice?

After studying your architecture, we install the Webkiok server and then configure each workstation to make it publicly accessible.
Once this first step is complete, you will access the administration interface in “full web” mode. This means you will manage workstations and patrons from the web browser of a computer that is connected to the installed and configured server.
We provide staff training so that your Library staff members will be comfortable using our solution.

What type of Internet Connection do I need to run Webkiosk?

Any type of ADSL (or similar) internet connection will do.

Can I access the administration interface from any web browser?

As long as the admin computer has access to the network hosting Webkiosk, you can log in the administration interface from any web browser and manage your computers.

What methods of web filtering do you use?

We provide web filtering to limit access to certain content which is not suitable for children and/or unlawful with regard to any person.
This works by using a filter management system, SquidGuard, which identifies and collects black-listed websites on a remote server.

Can I organize the web filtering based on categories of users?

You have seven different sources of web filters: adult, teenager, child, Wi-Fi, library catalog, print and “OPAC”. For each of these sources, you can define authorized and prohibited websites, either by category, by domain or URL. This allows you to organize your internet access according to predefined criteria (user’s age, the use of a personal computer instead of a public computer, etc.)

How can I be sure that managing public computers with your solution will be easy?

The Webkiosk administration interface is intuitive, complete and as easy to use as an internet site (you access it from a web browser). It is configured to make your job easy, while keeping control on the activity of patrons and connections.

What are the users’ rights on a public computer?

We consider that the different software suites we configure when installing Webkiosk allow a secure and open usage of the public computers.
Once logged in, patrons get access to an individual session where they can save whatever file they wish on their desktop or personal folder, or create bookmarks.
Depending on your requirements, we can reduce or increase the interaction your patrons have with public access computers.

How can I remotely control computers?

From the administration interface, you can start and stop one or more computers or even a whole space of computers.
If you intend to provide trainings or activities for your members, taking control over your computers is available with the software Epoptes (via VNC protocol).

Can I send messages to patron’s computers?

This feature is available from the reservation management module. You can choose to send a message to all patrons that are using a computer, or you can do it individually.

How can I ensure the rotation of users?

Webkiosk includes a computer reservation management module. When a user informs you that he wants to book a computer for a certain time and duration, you can simply sign him up using the reservation tool. You are still be free to modify or remove this reservation.

What types of statistics do you refer to?

A very detailed statistics tool allows you to get the data that you need. You can view details such as the connection history (kept for a year) and the websites visited by users.

Does the reservation of a computer allow me to verify the validity of a user’s subscription?

Considering that WEBKIOSK is linked to the data of your ILS (Integrated Library System), a member who no longer has a valid subscription will not be able to reserve a computer.

Our members use a smartcard to print out their documents, is it compatible with your solution?

As long as you have a smartcard reader that automatically debits the member’s credit, this means the printing console is independent.
Our solution is completely compatible with it.

How do you support the maintenance of Webkiosk in your contract?

We distinguish between software management services (which includes the operation system and applications) and Webskiosk maintenance (administration interface).
The difference is that our software management services support all software deployed on public computers (installation and updates included).

How do you handle comments, requests for changes or bug reports from library staff?

We use Red Mine, an open-source project manager accessible form a web browser, so that the improvement of Webkiosk takes in consideration comments and suggestions from any type of users:  contributing developers, library staff and members.
We make sure to use all means to continually improve Webkiosk over time!

3. How do I integrate WebKiosk into my media library? (5)

Do you supply an ILS or LMS (Integrated Library System and Library Management System)?

Webkiosk is not an ILS/LMS and for now, we do not provide this as part of our services.
However, we can advise you on the choice of an open-source ILS and refer you to useful contacts in this field.

I would like members to authenticate on computers with the same login ID they use to access and borrow library documents. Is it possible?

Our solution is compatible with any type of ILS (provided that the publisher has allowed data exports) in order to allow patrons to authenticate with a unique ID. We recommend that you consult us on this subject.

I have specific needs regarding the computers in my library, do you create tools –on request?

Aesis-conseil being both maintainers and service providers of the webkiosk solution, we are able to develop specific functionalities that will fully integrate to your architecture.
These services are invoiced on a flat rate basis and can take place before or during the performance of the maintenance contract.

Do I have to order new hardware or can I use my current computers with Webkiosk?

As long as your computers are not outdated (that is if they have a less than 5-year operating time), we are able to configure them to work with our solution.
In this case, it is most likely that you will avoid the purchase of new hardware.

4. WebKiosk under Linux (1)

Why don’t you install Windows on computers? What are the advantages of using Linux?

Our Webkiosk solution runs on Linux, which is an operation system like Windows.
Linux comes in several distributions. We chose the Ubuntu distribution because it is easy to use and has proven its efficiency in terms of integration in the French administrations (French National Assembly, the state police…).
In order to run Webkiosk, we needed an operation system that could meet certain requirements such as security, and user’s rights.
As you can see, GNU/Linux is a free open-source operation system: you will not have to pay for a license in addition to the installation of Webkiosk.
Here again, our purpose is clear: you only pay for your specific needs. It is out of the question for us to charge for additional licenses when the only service you really need is the maintenance of your public computers.

5. A few legal concepts (2)

What are my legal obligations as a librarian or documentation center manager?

First of all, you have the obligation to save the connection logs of all users during a certain period of time, which varies depending on the country you are located in.
As part of the deployment of Webkiosk we guarantee the keeping of these connection logs.
Regarding the securing of computers through the use of Internet filters, it is not an obligation, strictly speaking. However, the application of such a means of security will have the effect of limiting or even exempting your liability in case of a court instance intended by diverse rights holders.

Members have to sign a charter and/or code of behavior that informs them about the prohibited usages in the library. Doesn’t this document already act as a release of liability?

The writing of a code of behavior partially proves your diligence regarding the usage of Internet in your library. However, some laws might charge your for “serious negligence in securing your internet access”. This is why you should integrate a concrete security in your hardware and software.

6. Get WebKiosk (2)

How do I get Webkiosk?

You can contact us by email to get a pricing for your organization.

Do you give on-site or remote presentations of Webkiosk?

We actually give these two types of presentations. We can come to your library or IT department to present our solution, or we do it remotely from our office.
We recommend using this second option, when the distance between our office and your library becomes too important. We are located in France.
Please note that the remote presentation is really easy to carry out and does not require any special technical knowledge.
Of course, we can first give a presentation remotely and then, meet in person.